Norway Takes Lead for NATO Baltic Air Defense

Norway this month assumed the lead for NATO’s air policing mission over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, according to an Alliance release. Additionally, Britain rejoined the mission and air detachments from Italy and Belgium are also contributing forces to the current four-month rotation. A handover ceremony took place at Siauliai AB, Lithuania, on April 30; the Italians, who led the mission since January, transferred the leadership to the Norwegians. Norway deployed four F-16s to Lithuania for the rotation and will be joined by four Italian Eurofighter jets at Siauliai, while four British Eurofighters operate from Amari AB, Estonia. Belgium has deployed four F-16s to Malbork AB, Poland, for this rotation. The Alliance has increased the size and scope of this mission since Russia’s aggression in Ukraine last year. NATO jets scrambled more than 150 times in response to Russian air activity over the Baltics in 2014, four times the number of scrambles in 2013, said Alliance officials.